Mental Models: From a Newtonian to a Quantum Understanding (HL101)

The Systems Thinking Approach 

excerpt by Daniel Aronson (Read the whole article here)

The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the separating the individual pieces of what is being studied; in fact, the word “analysis” actually comes from the root meaning “to break into constituent parts.” Systems thinking, in contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system—a set of elements that interact to produce behavior—of which it is a part. This means that instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied. This results in sometimes strikingly different conclusions than those generated by traditional forms of analysis, especially when what is being studied is dynamically complex or has a great deal of feedback from other sources, internal or external.

The character of systems thinking makes it extremely effective on the most difficult types of problems to solve: those involving complex issues, those that depend a great deal dependence on the past or on the actions of others, and those stemming from ineffective coordination among those involved. Examples of areas in which systems thinking has proven its value include:

  • Complex problems that involve helping many actors see the “big picture” and not just their part of it
  • Recurring problems or those that have been made worse by past attempts to fix them
  • Issues where an action affects (or is affected by) the environment surrounding the issue, either the natural environment or the competitive environment
  • Problems whose solutions are not obvious


Give Me a Lever Long Enough….” from The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge (1990, 2006) pp. 3-14


Newtonian Organizations in a Quantum Age” from Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Margaret J. Wheatley. (2006) pp.17-45

Newtonian Thinking: 

This is a classic example of cause and effect Newtonian thinking: 


Quantum Thinking:

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